The Crystal Cowboy finds Drew Lustman stepping away from his FaltyDL alias and returning to Planet Mu, his former home after signing with Ninja Tune in 2011. His earliest releases were highly derivative of the manic drill'n'bass style that has long been associated with Planet Mu, but it wasn't until his tracks became more inspired by dubstep, U.K. garage, hip-hop, and house that he ended up finding more of an original sound, leading to his prolific run of releases on the label, starting with 2009's Love Is a Liability. He combines all of these influences and more on The Crystal Cowboy, another solid album of playfully eclectic electronic jammers. The album's first few tracks explore deconstructed rave and jungle idioms, utilizing sliced breakbeats and early-'90s-style synth riffs. Planet Mu is no stranger to such music, having previously released numerous albums and singles of absurdist junglisms by the likes of Venetian Snares, Shitmat, and FFF, as well as collections of unearthed tracks by Remarc, Bizzy B, and Equinox, but the sounds still remain fresh and thrilling, and Lustman proves to be more than capable of creating exciting music with them. The album's title track offers harder-edged breakbeats and growling basslines combined with more relaxed piano melodies. "The Hatchet" has thudding, Actress-like beats and spacious melodies, as well as atmospheric pianos and horns. The album's final two tracks are more inspired by electro, with "Blueberry Fields" contrasting soft, skittering beats with clanging metallic percussion sounds and "Sykle" having faster, punchier electro beats. As with his previous full-lengths, the album's songs have a yearning sentimentality to them, and they're not always suited for the dancefloor (the beat barely drops during the cloudy bass and doo wop samples of "Angel Flesh"). However, instead of hinting toward a concept the way Love Is a Liability did, The Crystal Cowboy is mostly just an enjoyable collection of tracks from an always thrilling artist.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson